Category Archives: Missiles & Guided Weapons

Missiles & Defense

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, is awarded an $867 million Missile Defense Agency contract to deliver SM-3 Block IIAs to the United States and partners.

SM-3 Block IIA
Missile Defense Agency awards Raytheon Missiles & Defense $867 million for SM-3 Block IIA

«The SM-3 Block IIA interceptor was developed in partnership with Japan, and it features a larger rocket motor and kinetic warhead that allow it to defend broader areas from long-range ballistic missile threats», said Tay Fitzgerald, president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «Our strong cooperation with Japanese industry was essential to the development of this next-generation solution that can defeat complex threats around the world from sea and land».

The SM-3 Block IIA interceptor is a defensive weapon the U.S. Navy uses to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The interceptor uses sheer force, rather than an explosive warhead, to destroy targets in space. Its «kill vehicle» hits threats with the force of a 10-ton truck traveling 600 mph/966 km/h. This technique, referred to as «hit-to-kill», has been likened to intercepting a bullet with another bullet.

The SM-3 Block IIA interceptor’s kinetic warhead has been enhanced, improving the search, discrimination, acquisition and tracking functions, to address advanced and emerging threats. The missile intercepted an advanced ballistic missile threat in its first live target test in early 2017.

The SM-3 interceptor is a critical piece of the Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe. The interceptor is being carried by U.S. Navy ships deployed off Europe’s coast and is now operational at a land-based site in Romania, further enhancing Europe’s protection.

AKERON

MBDA presents AKERON, a unique family of fifth-generation tactical combat missiles, a quantum leap from the third and fourth generation weapons currently available on the market. This family includes the MMP and MHT missiles, now renamed AKERON MP and AKERON LP respectively.

AKERON
AKERON, the new unique family of fifth-generation combat weapons

With AKERON, MBDA is now offering a family of missiles that can adapt to the needs of collaborative tactical combat.

Today’s combat units operate in a variety of complex environments. These can be urban areas, open countryside, deserts or mountains, during the day or at night; and can also feature a combination and/or variety of forces, both allied and adversary. To respond to the wide range of threats they face, operators must be equipped with a versatile and precise capability enabling them to destroy fixed or mobile land targets – including the latest-generation tanks and light combat vehicles – but also neutralize dismounted adversaries or adversaries in hardened or defensive fighting positions. All whilst minimizing the risk of collateral damage. Operators also need to be protected during engagements with simplicity of implementation, the capacity to «fire and forget» or engage a target while remaining hidden from sight.

Designed for these operational realities, the AKERON family of missiles incorporates the latest technologies in terms of high-resolution multi-band imagers, multi-effect warheads (anti-tank, anti-infrastructure, anti-personnel), data links, and multi-mode guidance algorithms based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. All ensuring robust and precise guidance at any distance, in all conditions. Each has their own specifications in order to be perfectly adapted to the missions of the combat units and platforms using them.

Operators thus have the broadest spectrum of tactical options to deal with their targets, thanks to the many possible modes of engagement. These include ‘fire and forget’, human-in-the-loop, locking the target before firing (LOBL), or locking on after firing (LOAL), which facilitates firing beyond line of sight (BLOS).

The missiles of the AKERON family meet current and future operational needs for dismounted combat as well as from land, air (helicopter, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and even naval platforms. They are also ideal for integration into the digital environment of the battlefield, and suited for collaborative combat.

Autonomous Launcher

It’s a concept that would thicken the force and increase mass fires – and it’s one step closer to reality for the Warfighter.

Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML)
Soldier touchpoints guide successful autonomous launcher demo

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (DEVCOM AvMC) successfully demonstrated proof of concept for an Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) in a multi-round live fire demonstration at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The demonstration was conducted on behalf of the Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), in partnership with the DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) and the 18th Field Artillery Brigade.

A total of seven rockets were fired, showcasing AML’s lethality potential in Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) multi-domain operations, particularly in the Indo-Pacific theater, the focus of the demonstration’s simulation.

«Our whole job was to prove that it is possible to control and drive this size vehicle remotely, bring it down to a heading that is desired, and remotely fire it», said Lucas Hunter, AML project manager for DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center. «The AML Surrogate responded to commands as expected. This allowed our team to confirm that it is possible to control all actions necessary to emplace and attack a target from a remote location. We have also learned a great deal about design considerations from an operational perspective that will be incorporated into a future AML design».

To demonstrate the concept via a surrogate AML system, the test team applied remote driving and firing kits to a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, allowing for the surrogate to demonstrate semi-autonomous launcher driving and launcher control capability. All operations of the technology demonstration were conducted by field artillery Soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with subject matter experts from DEVCOM AvMC and DEVCOM GVSC collecting feedback to guide future design demonstrations.

«This is an important first step to see what this looks like», said AvMC Director Jeffrey Langhout. «Twenty years ago we would have probably never done it this way, but because of who we are today, the very first time we put this together, we had real Soldiers doing the operating. Everything was done by Soldiers. All the engineers and all the great technologists were sitting out there and watching and cheering them on, but they were doing all of the work. It was great to be a part of».

The AML concept brings together two key elements of the Army Modernization Strategy – robotics and autonomy. The autonomous, unmanned, highly mobile, C-130 Super Hercules transportable launcher would increase lethality, with additional launcher platforms, and add three times the firepower and magazine depth, while minimally increasing force structure.

«This gives the Warfighter an agile, deployable, mid-range capability that will be survivable in an archipelagic operational environment, island hopping type of campaign, to engage a variety of A2/AD targets», said LRPF CFT Director Brigadier General John Rafferty.

While the demonstration identified physical and cybersecurity challenges for the unmanned launchers and evaluated communication needs for manned-teaming, the bread and butter of the nearly three-week event was the opportunity for DEVCOM engineers to work side by side with the Warfighter. Engineers gathered valuable feedback, whether it was the mechanic ensuring the oil had been checked on the vehicle or capabilities the Soldiers would like to see in future iterations.

«Any time you can get Soldiers, operators and engineers together – it’s impossible to overstate how important Soldier touchpoints are», Rafferty said. «This gets right at one of the fundamental tenets of Army Futures Command, which is Soldier-informed development».

From the ground up, the AML concept will be designed with the Warfighter in mind.

«Every individual has a different view, so the more input we have, the better this will be», said Lauren Ruta, a member of the AvMC AML test team. «It’s good for both sides, because as engineers, we design this but we’re not the users. There’s a huge disconnect between us designing and the actual users, because we don’t always know exactly what they need. Seeing what will really help them helps us make the design better. It’s good for the Soldier because they oftentimes just get equipment, but they don’t always get to see the work that went into designing it».

For members of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade, having their voices heard and offering insight into a concept that may one day make it into theater was an exciting prospect.

«Our job here is to figure out what’s the difference between AML and what we always do, so we can give good, constructive feedback on what we do in the field every day versus what they have so far», said 1st Lieutenant Janeen Smith with the 18th Field Artillery Brigade. «My crew is super excited. Later in life we can explain to everyone, ‘This is what I was a part of. I was part of the making of that.’»

The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.

The Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) is an Army Futures Command Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, and Ground Vehicle Systems Center, Science and Technology initiative to develop and demonstrate an autonomous, unmanned, highly mobile, C-130 transportable launcher. The prototype launcher will be capable of leader-follower autonomy, autonomous way point navigation, drive-by-wire, and remote launcher turret and fire control operation. It will be capable of launching longer munitions while remaining compatible with the current munitions. This video is a SIMULATION of how this technology could be used by the future force, this is not a real event

Stinger missile production

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, was awarded a $624 million U.S. Army contract to produce 1,300 Stinger missiles. The contract includes provisions for engineering support, as well as the test equipment and support needed to address obsolescence, modernize key components, and accelerate production.

Stinger
The Stinger missile’s seeker and guidance system enables the weapon to acquire, track and engage a target with one shot (Photo: U.S. Army)

«We’re aligned with the U.S. Army on a plan that ensures we fulfill our current foreign military sale order, while replenishing Stingers provided to Ukraine and accelerating production», said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «The funding will be used to enhance Stinger’s producibility in an effort to meet the urgent need for replenishment».

The combat-proven Stinger missile is a lightweight, self-contained air defense system that can be rapidly deployed by ground troops. Its supersonic speed, agility and highly accurate guidance and control system give the weapon an operational edge against cruise missiles and all classes of aircraft.

The contract is being funded from the Ukraine Supplemental, which contains emergency funding to support Ukrainian defense forces. Raytheon Missiles & Defense continues to work closely with the U.S. Army and its supplier partners to rapidly support the growing demand for Stinger.

Long Range Precision Fires

As the U.S. Army’s number one modernization priority, Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) has a heavy (pay)load to carry.

Precision Strike Missile (PrSM)
An M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launches a Precision Strike Missile on December 10, 2019, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. HIMARS is one of the Army’s front-running munitions that addresses Long Range Precision Fires (Photo by White Sands Missile Range, Kinsey Lindstrom)

But the program, of which the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC) plays a critical role, has proven to stand up to the scrutiny. The Precision Strike Missile, part of the LRPF portfolio, is an integral reason why.

« Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) is an exciting capability improvement for the Army that will provide dramatic improvements in targeting, lethality and range while using existing launchers», said Christi Dolbeer, director of the Technology Development Directorate at DEVCOM AvMC.

What makes PrSM so revolutionary? Both an ambitious approach to increasing capabilities but also a pragmatic one. Those launchers are already built, already in the field and already utilized by Soldiers who will not need extensive additional training on the weapons system’s operation. That design was intentional given the Army’s «do more with less» climate and an expected program price tag of more than $1.2 billion over five years.

«PrSM fits in the existing High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers», said Mike Turner, Fires Capability Area Lead for DEVCOM AvMC. «It is part of the command-and-control structure. It will be organic to all Army fires units. So, we have hundreds of launchers already capable of firing this and the targeting dilemma we create for potential adversaries is significant. Especially when we talk about increment four, where we can shoot 1000 kilometers/621.4 miles and that can come from any field artillery rocket and missile unit».

The first increment of PrSM brings with it the capabilities of an increased 500-kilometer/310.7-mile range and double the missile capacity per launcher compared to the aging Army Tactical Missile System. It is currently in an engineering and manufacturing development phase overseen by the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space Strategic and Operational Rockets and Missiles Project Office and is scheduled to be delivered to Soldiers in 2023.

Engineers at DEVCOM AvMC are currently working with prime contractor Lockheed Martin on increment two, which will integrate a multimode seeker to hit both poorly located unmoving targets and moving targets. This capability will expand the PrSM target set to include maritime targets under the Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile science and technology program.

Still in its early stages, increment three focuses on an enhanced lethality: adding smart submunitions – a small munition that separates from the missile prior to impact – and multiple target capabilities. Increment three will also present an opportunity for industry competition.

In a testament to Army adaptability, the increment intended to be fourth has been prioritized ahead of three and will extend PrSM’s range to 1000 kilometers/621.4 miles, doubling the range of increment capabilities. The reordering, directed by Army Futures Command and the Army, was due to «a need for a longer range in certain theaters», Turner said.

Doubling the range of the precursor missile with increment one –then doubling it again with increment four – is ambitious. Turner credits the leadership of the Long Range Precision Fire Cross-Functional Team in fostering collaboration within the Army enterprise, a collaboration that has opened avenues of ingenuity for a program conceptualized by the DEVCOM AvMC team in 2011. As increment one is soon to be delivered under urgent materiel release, Turner and his team’s belief in the future of the program remains unwavering.

«We are confident we can do it», he said.

The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.

Ballistic Missile Defence

The UK will become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence capability that can detect and destroy Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.

Aster 30 Block 1
Type 45 Ballistic Missile Defence upgrade to support more than 100 UK jobs

Type 45 Destroyers to receive significant upgrade as the UK to become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence detect and destroy capability.

UK have joined tri-national ASTER Block 1 missile programme with France and Italy.

Full upgrade programme worth more than £300 million, supporting more than 100 jobs, including highly skilled roles in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol and Bolton.

The UK is set to become the first European nation to operate a Maritime Ballistic Missile Defence capability that can detect and destroy Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles as it commits to a significant upgrade of Britain’s fleet of Type 45 destroyers.

The upgraded defence system, using the ASTER 30 Block 1 missile previously used only in French and Italian land systems, will help UK forces combat the increasing threats posed by anti-ship ballistic missiles at sea by developing the missile into a maritime variant.

The Ministry of Defence has placed an initial contract for this work with MBDA which, when delivered, will be worth more than £300 million and support more than 100 jobs across the UK – including highly skilled technology roles in areas such as system design and software engineering in Stevenage, Cowes, Bristol and Bolton.

Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin said: «As we face global uncertainty, alliances and greater defensive capability are more important than ever. Joining our French and Italian counterparts will see us collectively improve the cutting-edge technology our armed forces possess».

It is another example of us delivering on the commitments from the Defence Command Paper, helping protect our service personnel when faced with the most severe threats.

Upgrading the defensive capability of the Type 45 fleet was committed to in the Defence Command Paper, as part of the Integrated Review last year. Being able to defend against anti-ship ballistic missiles will add to the current capability of the Destroyers to defeat threats from the air.

The signing of the tri-national agreement is the first formal step in the upgrade of the six vessels, which will include converting existing missiles to the ASTER 30 Block 1 standard, as well as updates to the SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and Sea Viper command and control missile system, under the full Sea Viper Evolution programme.

Sea Viper’s upgrade will boost the lethality of the Type 45 vessels, helping to ensure the Royal Navy remains poised to defend the surface fleet and the Maritime Strike Group against complex air threats both now and into the future.

DE&S CEO Sir Simon Bollom, said: «This demonstrates the UK commitment to delivering a cutting-edge maritime Air Defence Capability. Sea Viper Evolution will deliver a significant uplift in capability and brings to a close many years of detailed planning and activity by the Maritime Air and Weapons team in DE&S».

The Sea Viper Evolution programme follows the recent contract awards to introduce the Common Anti Air Modular Missile (CAMM) into the Type 45, which will see the missile outload of the platform increased from 48 to 72 missiles.

The Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers are among the most advanced in the fleet and carry out a range of activity, including defence from air attack, counter-piracy operations and providing humanitarian aid».

Hypersonic Flight

The BOLT II «In memory of Mike Holden» flight experiment, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFRL/AFOSR), launched on the evening of March 21 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Doctor Michael Holden, who, up until his passing in 2019, had been a leader in the hypersonics field since the 1960s. The flight experiment successfully flew the planned flight path and acquired tremendous scientific data to further our understanding of boundary layer transition, turbulent heating, and drag at hypersonic conditions.

BOLT II
AFRL/AFOSR BOLT II Rocket launching from NASA/Wallops Flight Facility on March 21, 2022 (NASA/Wallops photo/Brian Bonsteel)

The goal of the AFRL/AFOSR BOLT II flight experiment is to collect scientific data to better understand Boundary Layer Transition (BOLT) and Turbulence (BOLT II) during hypersonic flight. Monday’s successful launch of the two-stage suborbital sounding rocket has paved the way for the next chapter of discovery in this area of basic research.

«The flight experiment was designed to provide access to hypersonic boundary layer turbulence measurements in a combination of low-disturbance air and high Reynolds numbers seen in flight, but that are not achievable in ground test facilities», said Doctor Sarah Popkin, who oversees the AFRL/AFOSR BOLT II project as AFOSR’s Program Officer for High-Speed Aerodynamics.

«The experimental vehicle included over 400 sensors geared toward correlating surface pressure, heat flux, and skin friction in a hypersonic boundary layer. The two-sided experiment seeks to understand both «natural» and «tripped» turbulent boundary layer development», said Doctor Sarah Popkin.

The BOLT II science team is led by Texas A&M University with key collaborators at NASA, CUBRC, University of Minnesota, United States Air Force Academy, University of Maryland, University of Arizona, and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics

Laboratory; along with international collaboration from Australia’s Defence Science and Technology group and the University of Queensland. Additional collaborators are mentioned in the BOLT II pre-launch press release.

As well, team members at AFRL’s Aerospace System’s Directorate have been instrumental in this project by doing a lot of the heavy lifting ensuring that the entire team was able to successfully collect the data needed from the experiment.

Strategic partnerships like these are vital to AFRL/AFOSR’s basic research success. By creating and supporting opportunities for highly diversified partnerships such as these, AFRL/AFOSR can also provide important pathways to build the next generation of scientists and engineers who can solve difficult problems and contribute to modernizing the future science and technology needs for the nation.

Similar to the BOLT I program, BOLT II included a symbiotic trio of wind tunnel testing, high-fidelity computations, and a flight experiment. The wind tunnel and computational data acquired during the BOLT II project informed the design and placement of over 400 sensors to capture correlations needed to, in turn, improve and validate boundary layer turbulence models.

Unique to BOLT II, this project provided the first-ever full-scale ground testing of the flight geometry. Post-processing of the flight data will be directly compared to the earlier entry into the CUBRC LENS II shock tunnel. This facility replicated the Mach and Reynolds number conditions expected for the BOLT II trajectory but at higher, conventional disturbance air conditions. «The results from these two data sources provide a one-of-a-kind direct comparison between ground and flight experiment conditions with identical hardware. A second, full-scale wind tunnel test campaign, is being carried out by the University of Queensland, which is also matching flight conditions and simulating vehicle surface heating observed during flight», said Popkin.

«Words cannot express how grateful and happy I am that we have reached this moment. Absolutely, we would not be where we are without our amazing team and I’m excited to see what the data will teach us about high-speed turbulence», said Popkin.

Doctor Rodney Bowersox, professor of aerospace engineering at TAMU and lead principle investigator on BOLT II, couldn’t agree more, «I am very grateful to have been a part of this great team effort involving multiple research groups at TAMU, including Dr. Helen Reed and Doctor Edward White and the cadre of brilliant students, CUBRC, AFRL, NASA, NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract (NSOROC), Lockheed Martin, other universities, and most importantly AFRL/AFOSR. I am confident the data obtained will serve the scientific research community for many years to come. Mike Holden would be very proud».

BOLT II exemplifies just how AFRL/AFOSR continues to discover, shape and champion bold, high risk, high reward basic research for the United States Air Force and Space Force. As AFRL/AFOSR celebrates 70 years of innovation, this legacy continues through smart investments in basic research opportunities that take deep dives into scientific transformational principles and conceptions that clear the path to new inventions, products and capabilities. As well, BOLT II illustrates the importance of basic research as a long-term investment that requires commitment and a sound strategy.

A2/AD missile design

Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully completed the second flight test of its new Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) missile, demonstrating capabilities that will meet key objectives for the upcoming Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) program. The test was completed utilizing a company-owned Bombardier CRJ-700 aircraft as the testbed for the air to surface mission computer and sensors.

Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW)
The Northrop Grumman A2/AD missile mission computer and sensors integrated on test aircraft (Northrop Grumman photo)

Northrop Grumman invested to actively mature and test its A2/AD missile design, which meets U.S. Air Force requirements for SiAW and other programs. Featuring open architecture interfaces, the Northrop Grumman solution will bridge current requirements while enabling rapid future upgrades to meet changing mission requirements.

«As a missile prime, we play a vital role in pioneering the most innovative solutions that increase survivability and lethality against new and emerging adversary threats», said Mary Petryszyn, president, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems. «Our lean-forward approach enables us to innovate at rapid speeds while reducing cost for our customers».

This second flight test demonstrated the mission capability of the missile sensor systems combined with the mission computer. This is the first of a new series of company funded flight tests which will continue to test the system with more stressing scenarios in preparation for the missile launch in 2022.

«We have taken significant steps to mature our missile design, providing capabilities for the U.S. Air Force SiAW program and other programs», said Dan Olson, vice president and general manager, weapon systems, Northrop Grumman. «Leveraging our digital engineering expertise to accelerate timelines, our first complete missile is planned to be built and ready for launch in 2022».

The Northrop Grumman A2/AD solution leverages lessons learned on the Navy’s Advanced Antiradiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER), engineering manufacturing and development, low-rate initial production and integration work on the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The Northrop Grumman A2/AD missile is capable of being integrated on a variety of aircraft.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Final test firing

MBDA’s new Marte Extended Range (ER) anti-ship missile successfully completed its final test firing at the end of November 2021.

Marte ER
MBDA’s Marte ER has successful final test firing

Carried out at an Italian test range in Sardinia, the firing was a key milestone in the validation process of Marte ER. It provided extra confidence in the performance level and reliability of this new missile.

A telemetric production standard missile with all functional capabilities and production hardware embedded was used. The only exception was the use of an inert warhead instead of a live one. The ground based launching system used was also in its final hardware and software configuration.

Using its mission planning software, the missile carried out a long-range sea skimming flight. It made three main turns and a pop-up/dive manoeuvre during the last turn. A straight segment then followed up to the Radio Frequency (RF) seeker activation point. Target identification, selection and tracking was extremely fast and proportional guidance started soon after.

During its terminal phase, the missile successfully performed its anti-Close-in Weapon Systems manoeuvre, hitting the target just above the water line at high transonic speed. This confirmed the outstanding effectiveness of Marte ER’s terminal guidance with its new solid state RF Seeker.

The firing also showed Marte ER’s turbojet engine behaviour was excellent for both “in flight start time” and thrust level.

This firing was the last one in the development path of Marte ER, which will enter into operation early next year.

Sky Sabre

A totally integrated state-of-the-art air defence system recently delivered to the Royal Artillery is propelling the British Army to the very forefront of ground based air defence missile technology.

Sky Sabre
Sky Sabre air defence missile system

The Royal Artillery has accepted into its arsenal the Sky Sabre air defence system, providing a step change in the British Army’s medium range air defence capability and with it, unprecedented speed, accuracy, performance and target acquisition.

Sky Sabre, as the name implies, is very much at the cutting edge replacing its venerable predecessor Rapier which recently entered its fifth decade of operation with British Forces. Rapier has seen service in Kuwait, the South Atlantic, and probably most visibly when it deployed to numerous London parks to combat any security threats during the 2012 Olympics.

The new system is operated by 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, part of 7 Air Defence Group, based at Baker Barracks on the South Coast’s Thorney Island. The Regiment is currently rolling out an extensive training package to transition from Rapier to the new system, and what a system that is.

To put into context how advanced Sky Sabre is, Major Tim Oakes, the Senior Training Officer for the training programme and one of the lynch pins in the delivery of the system, said, «Sky Sabre is so accurate and agile that it is capable of hitting a tennis ball sized object travelling at several times the speed of sound. In fact, it can control the flight of 24 missiles simultaneously whilst in flight, guiding them to intercept 24 separate targets. It is an amazing capability».

Delivered by the MOD’s procurement arm, Defence Equipment and Support, the system comprises of three separate components. Although pictured in the accompanying photographs together, in reality in the battlespace they would be expected to operate at distances of up to 15 km/9.32 miles apart.

First of all, there are the eyes and ears of the system and for Sky Sabre that is the Giraffe Agile Multi Beam 3D medium-range surveillance radar. Its radar rotates atop an extending mast which allows it to be elevated above tree lines and other obstructions to identify low flying intruders. The Giraffe can see a full 360 degrees out to a range of 120 km/74.56 miles. It is a tried and very much trusted system that has seen numerous upgrades since it first entered service.

The second component lies at the very heart of the whole system; it is, of course, the Battle Management and Intelligence suite. In essence, the command and control centre. This capability that links up the radar with the missiles and sends them to their targets. It also provides what is known as Link 16; this is a tactical datalink that allows Sky Sabre to share its information with Royal Navy vessels, the Royal Air Force, and our allies. It means that the system can be integrated wholly and contribute fully with joint, combined, or NATO operations.

Finally, we get to the sharp end; the third component is the Land Ceptor intelligent launcher and missile itself. At 99 kg/218 lbs. each, the missiles are double the weight of the Rapier it replaces and have three times the range. This is the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) that reaches speeds of 2300 mph/3701 km/h and can eliminate fighter aircraft, drones, and even laser-guided smart bombs.

They are housed in eight silos mounted on the rear of their mobile launcher and when fired they launch in a unique omni-directional manner that significantly reduces its signature making it less of a target for enemy counter measures. When exhausted, the Land Ceptor launcher can be replenished with a new set of eight CAMMs in less than half the time that it took to re-arm Rapier.

Sky Sabre’s CAMM is the same missile that is used on board ships (Sea Ceptor) and shares components with the Royal Air Force munitions (ASRAAM). This commonality across all services brings with it huge logistical efficiencies as well as significant cost savings.

The Commanding Officer of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Lane, said: «We will be able to compete with our peers and take on some of the toughest adversaries. It gives us a capability we have not had before; this new missile system with its new launcher and world-class radar will absolutely put us at the forefront of ground-based air defence».

16 Regiment Royal Artillery is now accepting into service the first tranche of this significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to defend itself from the air. Intended further procurements of Sky Sabre-based systems will be configured to operate in all parts of the globe. This means it could expect to see service world-wide much like its predecessor Rapier that will now gradually be phased out of service and returned to its scabbard!